Weisberg traveled from Warminster to Hollywood for 'Dragon'
For Larry Weisberg, the road from Warminster to Tinseltown has been a long, winding and rewarding one.
The 47-year-old Philadelphia native, who devoted years to working toward a creative production assignment, served as production supervisor of modeling and surfacing for DreamWorks Animation SKG’s computer-animated “How to Train Your Dragon,” opening March 26 in 2-D and 3-D.
His trip to a Hollywood career actually began more than three decades ago when he was 14.
“In May of 1977, my whole family went to see this movie that was supposed to be cool,” Weisberg said during a telephone interview from DreamWorks in Glendale, Calif. “We got there late and had to sit in the front row.
“When those yellow letters started on the screen, they spelled out ‘Star Wars.’ I looked up and watched these giant spaceships go from left to right, and they were so realistic.
“I remember sitting there and saying to myself, ‘I want to do this!’ ”
Weisberg, whose mother resides in Trevose, Pa., spent some time at William Tennent High School in Warminster, Pa. (and left when his family moved in the middle of his sophomore year). Soon after graduation, he set out to see the world.
“I went into the Navy, because I had no interest in college,” he said. “I wanted to make films, but I didn’t want to be told (in a cinema course) whose films were genius.
“I wanted to attend the Steven Spielberg-George Lucas School of Filmmaking and create blockbusters and fun movies.”
After the Navy, in which he served from 1980 to 1985 on submarines, he became assistant manager of a music-store chain. At age 28, he grew tired of the retail record business and decided to get different experiences by becoming a temp in Long Island.
He was married at the time, and his ex-wife had some recording-industry job offers in California. They packed their car and drove to Los Angeles.
Weisberg answered an ad in the Hollywood Reporter for a receptionist/office manager for a small TV production company responsible for the documentary series “ABC World of Discovery.”
He then worked on a children’s show revolving around the Museum of Natural History in New York City before landing a temporary position in 1996 at the Walt Disney Co. He was responsible for letters from nursery school owners asking for permission to paint pictures of Mickey Mouse on their walls.
In April 1996, his life took a major change when DreamWorks hired him as a temp in the legal department. Weisberg worked as a paralegal for nine years and then felt burned out.
He appealed to DreamWorks’ human resources department to find him a job involving the studio’s animated output. He agreed to take a 40 percent pay cut to do just that.
He worked on “Over the Hedge” (2006), “Flushed Away” (2006) and “Bee Movie” (2007) in the production office. For hands-on experience, his big break came when a staff member quit suddenly and Weisberg found himself doing what he had always wanted to do — working with artists to make a movie.
On “How to Train Your Dragon,” he became production supervisor of modeling and surfacing. That process takes artwork and makes it a 3-D model in the computer. Surfacing adds textures and colors to an object.
“They (artists) can make the model shine like glass, look like rock or wood and other things from that same piece of (computer) geometry,” he said. “Everything in the film — except fire and water — is modeled and surfaced.”
Recognizing that “How to Train Your Dragon” is a technical marvel, Weisberg feels the striking visuals only work so well due to the film’s heartfelt story.
In the PG-rated picture, a teen (voice by Jay Baruchel of “Tropic Thunder”), whose father (voice by Gerard Butler of “300”) is a brave Viking leader, feels like a misfit and a poor candidate to follow in the macho footsteps of his protective father. The boy ends up capturing and taming a legendary dragon and then rides the winged creature to defend his people.
“The film is about a boy who is different and who doesn’t fit in,” said Weisberg, who named “The Jungle Book” and “Aladdin” as his favorite animated movies. “But as soon as people take the time to stop and listen to him, they find out his alternate way of thinking isn’t weird or wrong. It’s just different.
“Sometimes, different is good and better.”
And what advice does Weisberg give young people who seek a job like his?
“If you want to get into animation as an artist, you must keep drawing,” he said. “Even though the characters in these films are computer-animated, it’s still all about the (original) drawings.
“Also, post your comics on Facebook and use networking sites to find other people doing similar work.”
And even though Weisberg is now firmly established in California, he still has a taste for a particular spot in Bucks County.
“I remember pizza from Longhitano’s (which was located in Warminster and is now in Southampton, Pa.),” he said. “Thinking about their pepperoni pizza still makes my mouth water.”